Crisis communication is essentially about informing key stakeholders – customers, staff, investors, journalists etc, about what you are doing to resolve a potentially damaging situation. After all, there is no point in doing the right things if you don’t tell anyone about it.
The integrity of the information you share is crucial, as it is this that determines the levels of credibility and authority that stakeholders attach to what you say. However, the information shared externally is only as credible as the information verified and shared internally across teams and functions.
In order to share credible and accurate information, you first need to have an effective process in place for capturing information and sharing it with relevant teams and individuals within an organisation.
As soon as a crisis comms team is mobilised, one (or sometimes more than one) team member should be allocated the role of:
- logging latest verified information
- keeping a log of resulting/completed actions
- updating a simple Situation Report (SitRep) template, including details of latest verified information, latest approved messaging, priority issues, and any priority actions awaiting completion
- sharing the SitReps with other crisis response functions at regular intervals.
Similarly, if a senior executive requests an ad hoc appraisal of the comms response to share with the Crisis Management Team or members of the Board, then a SitRep can provide a useful ‘at a glance’ basis for a detailed briefing by a comms team representative.
In a situation extending over a period of days, weeks and/or geographical locations, then online (soft) templates should be maintained in addition to hard copies. Tools such as Google Docs or SharePoint can help ensure that an information/action archive can be accessed by other teams in separate regions, or be referenced and mined as part of the post-crisis evaluation process.
The Information Manager role is critical to ensuring the smooth running of any crisis team, yet is frequently overlooked. Crisis communications is about telling the audiences that matter most to you what you are doing to manage the situation. Without credible information, it becomes extremely difficult – if not impossible – to communicate effectively.
That’s why information is the true source of power for crisis communicators.